Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against a Souderton man accused in the rape and murder of 9-year-old Skyler Kauffman, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said Monday.

James Lee Troutman, 24, is expected to stand trial later this year on charges of first- and second-degree murder as well as a host of sexual-assault charges stemming from the slaying of Skyler earlier this month.

And from the beginning, fighting off a potential death sentence has been integral to preparing his defense, his attorney, Craig Penglase, said in an interview last week.

"He's never been in trouble before," he said. "I'm hopeful there are sufficient mitigating factors in his life to argue against the death penalty."

Those could include previous treatment for "significant" mental-health issues, including Asperger's syndrome - an autismlike disorder characterized by awkwardness in social interactions. Alone, it would not constitute the legal standards to justify an insanity plea.

Police found Skyler's body hours after she was reported missing from her home near the Montgomery-Bucks County line May 9. She had been strangled, raped, wrapped in a comforter, and buried under a pile of trash bags in a trash bin.

Investigators quickly honed in on Troutman, who allegedly confessed to luring the girl into the basement of the Souderton Gardens apartment complex before attacking her.

Troutman waived a preliminary court hearing by videoconference Monday. He remains in solitary confinement at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility without bond.